Here is an interesting piece by Abeba Birhane, in which she argues, against Descartes, that our sense of self is necessarily mediated through our relations to other human beings. One particularly interesting moment is when she points out that prisoners in isolation begin to lose their own sense of self: 'Deprived of contact and interaction ... a person risks disappearing into non-existence.' 

It reminded me of Derrida's rich analyses in Voice and Phenomenon, where he argues, through Husserl's model of the living present, that the self relates to itself only as if to an other, even in our most seemingly interior and private moments. Even our self-relations, in other words, are relations to alterity. 

'The self is a relation which relates itself to its own self...' - Søren Kierkegaard
 
 
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Penelope Deutscher's recent book, Foucault's Futures: A Critique of Reproductive Reason, is here reviewed by Colin Koopman from the University of Oregon. 

 
 
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I just picked up Beckman's new book on Deleuze, in Reaktion's Critical Lives series. Beckman characterizes the book as 'a critical effort that endeavours to illuminate some fruitful dialogues between Deleuze's life and work.' I have so far skipped around in passages throughout, but the book looks to be a remarkably important contribution to Deleuze scholarship. Part-biography, part-critical introduction, she manages to, in 125 pages, examine most of the key moments in the evolution of Deleuze's thinking, demonstrating an astonishing facility with the overall history of Deleuze scholarship on many of the most important debates. I can't wait to read the rest of the book more closely. 

 
 
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In this recent Aeon piece, Costica Bradatan dips into the ongoing debate about the extent to which art can actually do philosophy. He argues that, regardless of their adherence or lack thereof to any technical definitions of philosophy, films 'can have on us the same effect that the great, perennial works of philosophy do: shake and awaken us, breathe new life into our minds, open us up to new ways of seeing ourselves and the world around us.'

The orthodox rebuttal, of course, is that unlike philosophy, art does not deal in arguments. Indeed, as many artists will explicitly assert, not only does art not make arguments, but when it tries to make arguments, more often than not, it ends up being bad art. The more didactic it is, the weaker it is artistically. 


 
 
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As I continue to come down from last weekend's David Foster Wallace conference, I stumbled onto this Salon piece, reflecting upon Wallace's prescient forewarning regarding the seductive dangers of reality-TV culture, (if 'culture' in this instance is the right term). Like James Incandenza's film, Infinite Jest - a film that entertains its viewers to death - we are rapidly spectating ourselves into a nihilistic conflagration. One might wish to find solace in the fact that Trump's approval rating declines on a nearly daily basis, and that he is now sitting at record low support for any president at this point in their administration. Is this not, we might wonder, evidence that America is growing weary of the Reality-TV President? Yet, we risk missing the forest for the trees if we fail to see that Trump is merely part of a much larger problem - one player in the spectacular carnival of souls that daily constitutes our leisurely milieu. However low his numbers may be, we (and I speak from a first-person perspective) continue to watch. We tune in to find out what's new with the Russia investigation, we wait with bated breath to see which official he will inappropriately fire next, we laugh snarkily at his latest tweets, we cheer on the folks at CNN as they assume the mantra of political satire. We are no less enamored of the spectacle than we were two years ago - spectating ourselves to apocalypse.  

 
 
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A photo of me with two lovely human beings - Charlie and Victoria Harris - at the David Foster Wallace conference this past weekend. Victoria and Charlie were both in the English department at Illinois State University during Wallace's time there. Both were close friends, and Charlie was the person responsible for hiring Wallace to the faculty. I made two new friends, one of whom - Victoria - is a fellow Derrida enthusiast! Just two of the many terrific people I met this weekend! 

 
 
I'm here at the David Foster Wallace conference in Bloomington-Normal, Illinois. It's good to be back in the Midwest! I've heard some really outstanding papers, and met some great people. 

Jeffrey Severs gave a wonderful keynote today on DFW as a thinker of immanence, drawing connections between Wallace, Franz Kafka, and Deleuze and Guattari, exploring the significance of doors in Wallace's work. It's been a terrific weekend. 
 
 
 
 
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In this New York Post piece, John Podhoretz writes, "It might seem bizarre to say that an administration only 23 days old needed a fresh start, but look: if Adele can stop 45 seconds into a live performance at the Grammys and begin again, so too can Donald Trump." 

This has to be a new low in political commentary. What the hell are we becoming? How on earth did this become the new normal? This is what it looks like to defend the indefensible. 

 
 
CNN Piece: Fox, Breitbart Focus on Leaks in Flynn Story

Ah, I remember the good old days, when the DNC servers were hacked by Russia with the support and applause of then-candidate Donald Trump, and the 'real story' in that case was the content of the leaks, not the hacking itself. 

Funny how all it takes is winning the election to suddenly change Trump's tune.